Working at home? Being a freelance artist? Working with children? These things are living the dream, I thought.
The reality is – as with most things, there are pros and cons.
This post will be a slightly different piece to my previous posts, a ‘mum post’, if you like. I mentioned previously that I considered writing a blog about the ‘mother from hell’ I become when there is a deadline looming. A friend of mine pointed out that this was not such a good idea whilst I was stuck in the middle of everything. I listened to this advice and three months later, I’m ready to write a piece that has evolved from my original idea.
To say I become the Mum from Hell IS unfair and untrue. Juggling three different jobs on top of being a parent, is testing. Let’s take the scenario from the end of last year:
I began looking after my then 10 month old niece alongside my 21 month old daughter in October, a 7am to 4pm (give or take) job, just 3 days a week. I realize I am lucky to have a brother and sister in law who are and willing to pay me for this, and it’s great to be so involved to with my youngest niece. But it is hard work, keeping two little ones safe, and well looked after and takes some planning and organisation. I had also agreed to complete two lots of set design for a children’s drama group. A job that is great fun and allows me to use my creativity, it also takes a lot of energy, planning and obviously – time.
So, on my days off I have a fridge raiding boundary testing young lady to look after. I also have to be constantly ready for conversation with my 11 year old about who my favourite Pokemon character is or who would win in a fight between various marvel characters. My answers must be backed up with reasoning too. These are conversations that I want to stop and enjoy.
I desperately want to tell the to-do lists in my head to evaporate and not be so concerned about what I didn’t get done that day. I want, of course, endless amounts of quality time with my children. I’m poignantly aware however, that the cardboard set will not wallpaper itself, and that I’ve a whole room out of bounds, because of a giant tree (who’s ridiculous idea was it to build that..?) Modrock, ‘pom-pom spiders,’ and countless other ‘good ideas’ in progress. Good ideas which of course I can complete… if I start work at 2am!
When I get an email from my invigilating job to ask of my availability, well that’s, like meditation in comparison. Like meditation if you subtract the hugely disproportionate amount of anxiety that seems to go hand in hand with me ‘going out’ to work.
I’ve spent the last nine years of my life trying to prove that I am not only a good Mum, but a good person, a worthy member of society and fighting the stigma attached to being a single parent in receipt of benefits. I’ve put enormous pressure on myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. Things which before becoming a mum I would have taken any available opportunity to hide from and made excuses for not doing things. I’ve still got a way to go but it wouldn’t be a journey if I didn’t. Sometimes I may make decisions not to go for particular jobs because it will prevent me from being the best I can be for my children. I am fortunate in that I have people who know me and care about me well enough to remind me to look after myself. These people encourage me if that’s what I need but remind me to take a step back when I need to as well. I am lucky that I do have a special someone and that I have hopes of one day being able to live together so we can be one family unit. That’s a whole other battle which I shall not bore you with, but I count my chickens, having someone close enough is pretty good chicken to have.
Constantly juggling and trying to achieve a balance between being a good mum – helping my children to become healthy & happy well balanced individuals, working – contributing to society to & the world, being a good friend & family member – these things are important to me but, sometimes, I get tired. Sometimes I do hide just for a bit.
I couldn’t sustain the amount of work I had going at the end of last year. I took the set work on knowing there was an end point and that I would have a little time to recharge before taking on the next project and I NEED that. My children NEED that. Sometimes it takes an unbelievable amount of energy to leave the house, to get out there and just face the world. Sometimes I have to put a little protective bubble around us, feeling like I am in a world where people are judging and waiting for me to mess up, to fail. I have to remind myself that I am not failing because trying deserves credit too and not giving up is awesome! (Just going to do a little shout out to my Mum right here for being an inspiration in not giving up!)
So maybe, I snap at my children, when I’m under stress and maybe I’m a lot less fun to live with when juggling all the balls and spinning all the plates (and any other relevant circus themed analogy). Working at home means I also get that bit of time, because I have more flexibility and say over when I’m working, to talk things through with my children. I can stop and explain myself, apologise. The ability and time to communicate with my children is something I am forever grateful for. I also work hard to make sure that we get family time when we can
I hope that their recent game invention ‘hide from the Mummy Monster’ is just a game and a bit of fun. I hope they will grow to appreciate that whilst I can’t always be their friend and sometimes have days when I struggle & when my energy and good nature feels compromised; I do the very best that I can, and a lot of it, I do for them.
~I am a tiny little fish in an enormous ocean. The way I muddle through life is just one way. Everyone finds a way that is unique to them. I specifically want to acknowledge, everyone working hard to survive, everyone trying their hardest to be good kind people whilst battling their own demons and anyone stigmatized, marginalized or demonized unfairly. There’s far too much hate in the world. I’m trying to swim against that tide and I know that others are too.~